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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  August 31, 2013 9:00am-11:01am PDT

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dramatic developments at this hour on syria. meetings expected at the white house today and capitol hill tomorrow. can the president convince congress? in the mediterranean, poised to strike. all the pieces in place for u.s. military action. the big questions this hour, will it happen and what could be the fallout? meanwhile, president obama
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getting pushback from overseas. we will tell you what one world leader is saying. and here in the u.s., protests already springing up across this country, with more planned for today. hello, everyone. it is high noon here in the east, 9:00 a.m. out west. welcome to "weekends with alex witt." senior aides telling nbc news the white house is holding conference calls to brief senators on syria, possibly one of the last pieces of business before a military strike. nbc news has also learned all members of the house are invited to an in-person classified briefing on syria. it is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. meantime, one key democratic lawmaker tells msnbc he would like more information from the obama administration ahead of any potential strike. here's what congressman gregory meeks told me today. >> the facts are what the facts are. let us see what the facts are,
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let us make sure that we can relate those facts to all of the allies and to nato, et cetera, to get everybody on board. there's no need to rush into it. let the facts come out and let the facts be what they are. >> at the same time, former cia director and former secretary of defense leon panetta tells nbc news the u.s. must act because the nation's credibility's at stake. >> it would be nice if the u.n. acted. it would be nice if our allies acted. it would be nice if others were willing to take that action. but when that line has been drawn and action needs to be taken, then the united states ultimately has to do that for the sake of the world and for the sake of world peace. >> early today, chemical weapons experts with the united nations all left syria, crossing into neighboring lebanon. the team carried out a fourth and final day of investigation on friday. we have three reports for you. we are in lebanon, and at the pentagon but we begin with
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kristen welker at the white house. what can you tell us about this in-person meeting scheduled for tomorrow, because this is new, right? >> reporter: this is a new piece of information, you're absolutely right. what's significant about the briefing that will be held tomorrow is the fact that it is classified, which means that those house members are going to be getting more details than members of congress have gotten in these unclassified briefings. as we have reported, there are going to be two separate briefings this afternoon, one with senate democrats, one with senate republicans. all of that information is going to be unclassified so a lot of that is what the public has heard. it will be fleshed out information. we heard secretary kerry map out a lot of that yesterday when he talked about the breadth of the attack, more than 1400 people killed, including more than 400 children. he also talked about the fact that their intelligence intercepted conversations and communication about the planning of that attack and he also said u.s. satellites captured rockets that were basically launched
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from assad's regime strongholds to rebel strongholds so that is the information they laid out to the public and to congress yesterday but tomorrow, that briefing is going to be classified, which means that they will get a lot more information about what specific intelligence is leading the obama administration to believe that this is a slam-dunk and that that was essentially that chemical weapons attack was launched by the assad regime. but president obama, secretary kerry making it very clear yesterday, almost leaving no doubt that they are moving forward with a military strike. they have said that that strike will be limited in scope and they're making the point that this is not going to be another iraq, it's not going to be an open-ended military engagement, and that is part of why you are seeing the president give these briefings into the run-up of whatever decision he makes. we do want to be clear, though, the president still at this hour has said that he hasn't made a decision about how exactly he's going to proceed. >> you anticipated my next question right there. thank you very much.
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joining me now with the latest from the pentagon is nbc news's jim miklaszewski. you're hearing from kristen that the white house appears to be preparing congress. is there any indication from the military that the strikes are imminent? >> reporter: the two big questions this afternoon are number one, has president obama made the decision yet and number two, when will the strikes occur and quite frankly, we don't have any precise answers to either one of those questions. now, when those u.n. inspectors bugged out of damascus early this morning, about a day early, they clearly have cleared the battlefield to enable the u.s. to launch those strikes, and the u.s. military couldn't be any more ready than they are right now. they've got those five guided missile destroyers in the eastern mediterranean, each loaded with up to 50 tomahawk cruise missiles and we're told that all the targets, almost all the targets, have already been downloaded into those warheads so once the president does give the order, it will be short
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order before those missiles are in the air. >> okay. mick, when you talk about those that are in the mediterranean, we have the "uss san antonio" loaded with about 300 marines which could be translated as a potential boots on the ground mission. is there any indication that is being considered? >> reporter: no. not really. this is an overabundance of caution here, and somebody within the mix probably said look, i don't feel comfortable having those ships out there without an amphib ship which would have the ability to take helicopters and launch amphibious and a contingent of marines on board. just in case. you never know what's going to happen. and every military operation, bar none, something goes wrong. look at the take-down of osama bin laden, when they came in one of the helicopters crashed but they had backup helicopters as a contingency plan. so that's all this is. no plans to put any marines on the ground anywhere and they don't even really see that that's a likelihood or even
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could happen by accident. >> okay. what are they talking about at the pentagon in terms of the timing of an assault? as you know, we had senator john mccain saying this could be a one-day event. in the pentagon, is there a suggestion maybe a multi-day or are they being definitive about that at all? >> well, it could be a one-day event if, in fact, these tomahawk cruise missiles are so accurate and they take out most, if not all of the targets that were originally aimed for. but usually, you know, after the smoke clears and the satellites hover overhead and they say oh, we missed this, we missed that, and there could be a cleanup strike for at least one day, and then perhaps a third. but people are looking generally at one, possibly two days. it would probably be extraordinary for three. but you know, that's always possible. but at this point, it would be whatever, however many strikes there would be, it would most likely be in the dead of night to reduce the chance of collateral damage, because there
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would be fewer civilians out and about. >> okay. in terms of the this and that, are there specifics on what would be the first round of targets? >> reporter: well, you can bet that it's going to be the chemical weapons command and control bunkers. there's about six to eight major chemical weapons sites, so you would want to take out those command and control bunkers, probably first and foremost. then after that, you go after some of the delivery systems, some of the planes, some of the helicopters, the artillery, the rocket launchers and the like, and beyond that, it's unclear because it was originally thought that some regime targets like the defense ministry and interior ministry might be included to send president bashar al assad a very strong message but in statements, we're hearing from president obama himself yesterday, it sounds like all the regime targets are off the table. >> okay. jim miklaszewski at the
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pentagon, thank you. eamon is in lebanon so with another good day to you, let's talk about the timing first of the u.n. weapons inspectors having left syria a bit early today. any details on the why to that or was this merely they had completed their investigation? >> reporter: they had merely completed their investigation and perhaps for their own consideration, they left a little earlier than usual. keep in mind earlier in the week the secretary general of the united nations actually said their mandate would be up on friday and they were expected to leave the country saturday morning so in fact, the few hours perhaps not making any type of political difference or any type of indications that there was a difference. they now have left syria. they flew out of lebanon. we now understand that we believe they have landed in the hague in the netherlands. we expect those samples to be distributed to various laboratories in europe for them to be analyzed and then ultimately have those findings submitted to the u.n. secretary general. but we do understand they are expected or at least a senior representative of the inspection team is expected to brief the
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secretary general as early as tomorrow, perhaps even monday morning, about some of the initial findings that the inspection team found while they were on the ground. >> ayman, thank you so much for that live report. joining me now is a member of the house armed services committee. representative, thank you for joining me. >> good to be with you, alex. >> i know that you, sir, have voiced your belief that the president needs to seek authorization of congress before taking military action. did you hear anything yesterday from either the president or secretary kerry to change your mind on that? >> no, not at all. the constitution of the united states is very clear, congress has the authority and the obligation to declare war, and you just heard a long explanation of a war act. we've got five cruisers, or destroyers, we've got missiles already to go. that's an act of war. and congress has the authority, the responsibility under the constitution to declare war. we have been brushed aside too long. the 535 people elected by the
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american public have that responsibility. we ought to be called to session. the president ought to tell speaker boehner and leader reid and the senate come back, we need to take up this issue. we need a full explanation. but apparently it isn't going to happen and once again, the constitution's being pushed aside, the power of the presidency is proceeding and we are going to war. limited but nonetheless, we are going to war. >> sir, we have gotten word here at nbc news that the white house has called for a meeting of all of congress on capitol hill tomorrow. have you yet gotten word about that and if so, would you be able to attend that meeting? >> well, isn't that a nice act. i have not heard a thing about it. there has been no communication to my office. i learn about it on this program. will i attend? i'm going to find out what's going on. i would love to have somebody officially tell us that this is going to happen. but the point here is far, far more broad than that. this is about the constitution. this is about war.
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this is about the power to declare war. that's the congressional power. we need a full explanation of this. there are so many unanswered questions that are out there. perhaps a classified briefing would help, maybe not, but listen, it looks to me from all that i just heard on your report just a few moments ago, hey, we're going to war. limited, hopefully, but we're going to war. we have not had that briefing prior to this. it's almost as though as an afterthought, oh, yeah, maybe we ought to tell congress. it's not going to work to the benefit of this president or to this long-term republican democracy that we have. united kingdom, they took the time. cameron took the time to take to the parliament the question of the united kingdom, great britain, going to war, and they said no. maybe we would say yes. maybe we would say no. but this is, after all, a democracy. >> sir, is there an ability for
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you to distinguish between war and a tactical surgical strike, particularly on the heels of what secretary of state kerry said yesterday. he made a very compelling humanitarian case here. is there a difference in your mind between what the secretary is laying out and war? >> no. there is no difference at all. you're launching missiles. you're talking about 50 missiles on each one of five destroyers, you're talking about a potential second attack. that's an act of war under any definition. now, if you want to play games, you want to get the lawyers in, sure, go ahead. the war powers act is quite clear. the president does have the power if there is an imminent threat. there is nothing imminent here. this is a punishment action. this could wait a few days. this could wait. but apparently it's not going to. >> but sir, you say that it could wait. would you be more comfortable with the thought of launching tomahawk missiles from these
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four to five ships in the mediterranean after congress says go ahead? i mean, the entire big picture what's happening here potentially, are you more comfortable with that if congress says go? >> certainly. that's the constitutional responsibility of the 535 members of congress, senate and house, that have that constitutional responsibility to declare war. and in fact, this is an act of war. we have done this in the past. it was done after 9/11 with the authorization use of force, it has been ignored far too often and we've had presidents simply assuming that they have the authority to go launch missiles or invade grenada or whomever else willy-nilly, perhaps with good reason, perhaps not, but it is the people of the united states and their representatives that have that authority. and it ought to be exercised. but apparently, the president is simply blowing past us, give us an opportunity to fly into washington tomorrow, hear a
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classified briefing, and then he's going to go do what he wants to do. well, that's not the way the constitution says it's supposed to happen. >> i would like you to listen with me to a bit more of what secretary of state kerry said yesterday. let's take a listen. >> it is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the united states when it says something, they are watching to see if syria can get away with it, because then maybe they, too, can put the world at greater risk. >> to that end, do you consider this a legitimate concern at all, that if this president does not act militarily, that our credibility on the world stage is damaged? >> you notice the words the secretary used, he talked about america. he talked about the country. he didn't talk about just the president. the credibility of the united states is an issue. i agree with that. but also, wouldn't it be better if he had the entire congress supporting him instead of those of us that say wait a minute, we need to understand what's going
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on here, we need to have all of the information and we also need to learn about the unintended consequences of launching missiles. there are serious questions out there. yes, the credibility of the united states is at stake, and yes, the constitution is also. >> representative garamendi, thank you for your time. >> thank you. we will hear from a former state department official about these new possible signals from the white house about syria. a bit later, the real life drug world of "breaking bad." a look at how accurate that show is and how drug agents are trying to crack the billion dollar industry. soft would be great, but we really just need "kid-proof." softsprings got both, let me show you. right over here. here, feel this. wow, that's nice. wow. the soft carpets have never been this durable. you know i think we'll take it. get kid-friendly toughness and feet-friendly softness, without walking all over your budget. he didn't tell us it would do this. more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. right now, get up to 24 months special financing
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approaching 20 past the hour, we have this breaking news. it appears that things are happening fast and furiously now. we are just getting word from the white house that the president will be holding a conference, a news conference,
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at 1:15 p.m. eastern time, less than one hour from now, in the rose garden. the media has been asked to assemble and be there within the next 25 minutes or so, so again, things are happening fast and fear y furious. let's go straight to kristen welker at the white house. what do we expect the president to say? have you been given any guidance on that? >> reporter: so far, no guidance, alex, but as you know, president obama spoke about the situation in syria yesterday but that was sort of in the middle of a bilateral meeting with other world leaders. this is really the first time that he is holding an event like this in which he will make remarks specifically dedicated to syria. of course, this comes on the heels of very strong language by the president, by the secretary of state yesterday. they were unequivocal in their language, essentially leaving no doubt that they believe some type of military action is necessary. now, i can tell you that it has been a very busy day here at the white house. the vice president arrived just a short time ago, the chief of
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staff is here, defense secretary chuck hagel is here, dempsey is here, so all the players sort of assembled as we have been reporting, they are going to hold a conference call with senators a little bit later on today. still, it is significant that president obama is going to make a statement about syria. we will be listening very closely. alex? >> just reading the tea leaves, kristen, given your experience covering the white house, does this indicate to you the president has made up his mind? heretofor he had not. >> reporter: that's a great point. the white house has said the president would not speak in this type of a format until he had made up his mind so i think that this is an indication that he is going to tell us what specifically he plans to do moving forward in syria. again, he has signaled the fact that he plans to take some type of limited military strike. what does limited mean? it means it will be confined to one or a few days, we are told.
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this would be strikes launched from -- likely launched from ships that are located in the mediterranean right now, cruise missiles, so that is what we are anticipating. the president has been very clear, he does not plan to put boots on the ground and at this hour, we still understand that to be his thinking. >> kristen, i'm sure you have to take off shortly and get to that statement in the rose garden. thank you so much for that. joining me in studio, p.j. crowley, former state department spokesperson. i saw you nodding as she was saying the president's made up his mind. >> i would think if you assemble the national security council, they have now made a decision and given the compelling case that the administration put forward, i don't think there's walking back at this point. i would expect reading the tea leaves that the president will announce that the united states is going to go ahead with a limited strike to reinforce the red line he has drawn about chemical weapons. >> i want to pick up on that, because how much, after listening to secretary kerry, do
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you think the actions today are about a humanitarian rescue, a humanitarian movement to save people from syria, and i guess saving face is how some people have said it, because of the president laying down that line in the sand, saying you may not cross this or you will have retributi retribution? >> the president drew a red line and it's an appropriate red line. i think we, the world would suggest if a leader turns chemical weapons against his own people, there should be consequences. i think part of the dilemma here is that there will be action based on that narrow military agenda. but it will not necessarily or there's no assurance that it will tilt the civil war in a decisive direction. that's the balance if he does employ military force, he needs to find a way to create meaningful consequences to change the calculations of
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bashar al assad but there are other equities involved here. the strategy is try to deal a military blow but contain the prospect of further escalation or having the conflict spill beyond syria's borders. >> hang on just a minute. i'm getting from my producer that kristen has more information from the white house. kristen, to you? >> reporter: we are just getting a little bit more information. one of my sources previewing what we can expect to hear, saying that we will not hear a preview about imminent military operations in syria. however, the president will provide an update about his decisions and about how to proceed. so he has made some type of decisions here. we expect him to map those out and to give the american people a better sense about his thinking moving forward as we have been reporting. he, secretary kerry were quite definitive yesterday that something needs to be done. what that something will look like, when it will happen, those are the remaining questions and of course, those are the questions that he will get if he
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does choose to answer questions when he speaks from the rose garden at 1:15, just a short while from now. >> it's interesting, i was kind of trying to figure out if he will be taking questions given the sensitivity of what he's speaking about. they have said it's a statement. that is different than a news conference or press conference, certainly. so we will see. thank you very much. please jump back on the broadcast any time you have new information. so p.j., something you said which is about changing the actions of bashar al assad. do you think the surgical tactical military strikes will change him? you worked in the state department. you know classified information about this guy. >> it will not necessarily change his calculations. he's in a fight for survival. if it's successful, he will continue his significant conventional war against the syrian opposition, but he will at least defer for a period of time the use of chemical weapons. but i would fully expect that at
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some point, if he feels he needs to use whatever weapons at his disposal to stay where he is, he'll come back to this again which then makes the consultation with congress tomorrow vitally important because this is a characterized as a limited action given the response to the attack, chemical attack, but this is probably not going to be the last act. so if there's going to be the need for follow-on action, whether that's political or military, the sooner the president gets congress on board with some expression of support, not necessarily formal declaration, that helps him because ultimately, the way that we fight wars today, this will be the president's war and he will accept all of the political responsibility. >> but p.j., you've got to wonder about creating further instability in the region. what is your take on potential ramifications for israel, jordan or turkey? >> well, these countries, particularly jordan, and lebanon, are being significantly
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destabilized by the refugee flow so more needs to be done to address the humanitarian crisis in the surrounding area. this is the fine balance. how can you do something meaningful against assad without having this have ripple effects across the border. also, syria's connected to lots of other things, obviously iran is a combatant within syria, but also you have the interesting dynamic here with the new iranian president who seems to be prepared to have a -- >> more moderate as well. >> moderate in a relative sense. >> exactly. >> but there is an opening for conversation about not only the nuclear program but other issues between the united states and iran. so finding a way to operate within the context of syria but protect these other larger equities, very, very difficult balance. >> p.j., i had intended to let you go but i'm not going to, considering what's happening right now. sit tight. we are going to take a look at further information that's
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coming in to nbc news fast and furious, but the news from the white house that in about 45 minutes, the president will take to the rose garden to make a statement on his decision-making process, whether he has come to a decision. we will find out in 45 short minutes. keep it here on msnbc. nascar is ab.out excitement but tracking all the action and hearing everything from our marketing partners, the media and millions of fans on social media
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to hear more of phyllis's story, visit ♪ every now and then i get a little bit tired ♪ ♪ of craving something that i can't have ♪ ♪ turn around barbara ♪ i finally found the right snack ♪ ♪ our breaking news that we told you about ten minutes ago, 45 minutes from now, the president will be taking to the rose garden of the white house, where he is scheduled to make a statement on the situation in syria. he had previously said that he would make such a statement once his decision was made as to whether we go in with surgical tactical strikes there, launched by tomahawk missiles from ships that are right now in the mediterranean, or not. so we're watching this very closely. do stay with us. we will have it for you live in about 45 minutes from now. let's go over to iran, though.
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we are in tehran where certainly there is much discussion about this particular issue and what might be brewing. good evening. what are you hearing from iranian officials about what this possible strike by u.s. officials could mean for iranians? >> reporter: well, iranians are very worried about this. syria is iran's closest ally and they obviously don't want to see a strike on syria. they have been showing a little bit of restraint, though, yesterday and today. they moved away from threats and are giving more advice but i'm sure the iranians are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with the syrians. a senior iranian politician arrived in damascus today with his delegation which is obviously a show of support to the syrians for discussions with the syrian government. i think if the u.s. strike does go ahead on syria and it's no more than a rap on assad's knuckles then the iranians will probably show some restraint and won't wade into some sort of inferno there and they will also
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be able to exert influence on syrian politics if they don't get fully involved. however, if the tables change and it looks like the u.s. wants to overthrow assad, that will dramatically change the stakes for iran. iran has always said the removal of assad is their red line and they won't tolerate it. so this is a very, very anxious time for the iranians and they are very, very scared assad is going to go. the americans don't push too hard and there are just some surgical strikes, i think the iranians will hold back. if not, if it looks like it's going to be regime change there, then the iranians will probably get involved quite deeply. iran has enough problems already with its nuclear problem and doesn't want to open up another front, another headache for itself. but if assad was to go, then i don't think they're going to have any choice but to get involved. they have said time and time again that they won't tolerate assad going. iran has even cast aspersians
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about the attacks, saying rebels could have done this to draw america into a wider conflict which could become very messy. today the head of the iranian revolutionary guard said this attack will go way beyond syria's borders if it was to happen. >> ali, thank you very much for that. we will take you now to a united nations briefing. we will get an update on the results of the inspections by the chemical weapons inspectors in syria. let's take a listen. >> -- said very clearly there's nothing the inspectors can tell them that they don't know already, and he also explained that it does not include finding who used the chemical weapon, only if it was used or not, and the administration have already concluded that the chemical weapons had been used. my question is, why doesn't the united nations and the secretary general step up to the plate and expand the mandate of the
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inspectors to include finding out who is the culprit that used chemical weapons, because when i asked this question to secretary general, he said he will give the evidence to the international community and they will decide. we know very well that the division within the security council will lead everybody to incriminate the other side and we will be no nearer to finding out who did this. we need a fair, impartial body like the u.n. to determine who are the culprits who used the chemical weapon. >> that's a very long question but simply to say thank you for your vote of confidence in the united nations, and that is precisely the point here, that -- let me say it very clearly as well, and forcefully, that the united nations' mission is uniquely capable of establishing in an impartial and
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credible manner the facts of any use of chemical weapons based directly on evidence collected from the ground. with regard to the other part of your question, the mandate is the mandate. the team and the secretary general will abide by that mandate to be able -- to the expectations of the international community -- come up with as i just said in an impartial and credible manner evidence collected from the ground and then analyzed and those findings will be made as i just said just a little while ago, available to member states as soon as that analysis is completed. >> if i may just follow up, i understand this is the mandate, but what my question is, why doesn't the united nations secretary general take this brave step of stepping to the plate and expanding the mandate, expanding the mandate to determine who did this, because we all know there's no accountability which the
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secretary general has said many times. >> you seem to misunderstand where the mandate derives from. the secretary general's mechanism as defined, and you can read all the details about it online, derives from a general assembly resolution that was then subsequently endorsed by a security council resolution. therefore, i think you can see where difficulties might arise with changing the mandate. the mandate is robust and provides for the united nations to be able to provide in an impartial and credible manner a picture of what happened and let's be also very clear, that the secretary general and the team has stepped up to the plate already. let's not forget that these are scientists and technical and medical experts who braved sniper fire to go to collect samples and to interview witnesses and survivors.
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i think i would say that's the definition of stepping up to the plate. >> martin, of course we haven't learned yet who shot at the team when -- >> frankly, it doesn't matter who's shooting when you're under sniper fire, going to do a job. it does not matter who is shooting. we frankly don't care who's shooting. it's outrageous that they were shot at. what's your question? >> what happened to the investigation, the original or the first important one and this is where everything was initiated based on? >> i'm glad you asked that. i'm glad you asked that. because as i said yesterday, and i'm very happy to repeat it again, the team has given a very clear undertaking to the syrian authorities that it will return, the team will return to conduct the investigation into all the pending allegations, including
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that. as i've just said, the team left syria this morning so that they could take the sample safely to the laboratories where they will be analyzed and of course, beyond the samples, there's an entire body of evidence, witness statements, interviews with doctors as well as survivors, all of that needs to be collected, in some cases translated, and then analyzed. so they have work to do but they have given an undertaking that they will be returning to complete their investigation into the pending allegations. all of them. >> a follow-up on that, given the time lapse, again, given that the opposition has controlled for some time now, shouldn't -- wouldn't you expect they would have tampered with the evidence? >> listen, this is an argument that's been put forward also with regard to houta and the team has been able to collect
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samples from the sites both by medical samples and environmental samples, and they are satisfied that they have material that they can now analyze, and there are also many other ways to help to investigate the pending allegations. as we've said before, already, the work had begun on analyzing and collecting information that it was possible to collect at a distance without being on the spot. i'm going to go to someone else, okay? please, blue tie. yes. you. >> did the secretary general try to convince the united states not to strike any time soon before the report of the inspectors come out? >> what we have said and the secretary general has said publicly is that the team needed time to do its job. it needs time to be able to analyze the information and the samples that it has collected, and the secretary general has
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also said repeatedly that there is no alternative to a political solution to this crisis, overall crisis, in syria. a military solution is not an option. yes. >> speaking about time, is there any sort of time frame being given, maybe an earliest date or even a latest date, is there any time frame being given for these results to be analyzed in the laboratories? >> we are not giving a timeline, simply to say that, and i can help you here, the mission as i just said left syria and arrived in the netherlands today, in the hague, and it will then begin its evaluation of all of the available material, all the available information regarding the incident, including the analysis in two designated laboratories, all of the
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samples. but before the mission can draw any conclusions on this incident, the laboratory process must be completed and the secretary general has requested for the laboratory phase of the investigation to be expedited as much as feasible, and as he put it himself this morning, when speaking with miss king, whatever can be done to speed up the process is being done but we are not giving a timeline. yes, pam. >> martin, you mentioned yesterday that the secretary general in the p-5 meeting which includes the united states and france, underscored i think was your word the importance of the charter which of course prohibits use of military force. is the secretary general reaching out to the u.s. and france, who have indicated the possibility of a military strike, to encourage restraint or to discourage a strike, and also, what are you doing for the
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1,000 u.n. staff in syria to protect them? >> i'm glad you asked that last question and i'll deal with that first. i've seen all kinds of reporting suggesting that the departure of the chemical weapons team somehow opens a window for military action of some kind. frankly, that's grotesque and an affront to the more than 1,000 u.n. staff who are on the ground in syria delivering humanitarian aid and who will continue to deliver critical aid. of course it would be only prudent to look at the composition of the team, that 1,000 plus, to see who is most critical to the work that's being done. but i can assure you that the humanitarian work that has been going on in extremely difficult circumstances working with the syrian arab red crescent and
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others to provide aid to millions of displaced people, not to mention those in the neighboring countries who are refugees, that work will continue. >> thank you. >> on the first part, i would simply just say what i said yesterday which is the secretary general has underscored the importance of the u.n. charter. >> just to follow up, has he made any separate -- has he had any separate conversations [ inaudible ]? >> i'm just going to stick with what i've said. yes. >> thank you. helpful colleagues. >> yes, very. can you give some examples of which humanitarian, u.n. humanitarian bodies have a lot of staff in syria, and secondly, i'm getting -- you said the secretary general was being briefed tomorrow by the team -- >> no, by the doctor. >> is he briefing somebody else
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after that? >> meaning what? >> like you, like me. >> we will certainly endeavor to provide a readout of that briefing. and with regard to the first part of your question on which humanitarian agencies under the u.n. umbrella are operating there, of course, wfp, unicef and others. i will endeavor to provide a more detailed list. obviously we're not going to get into staff numbers and so on of each individual agency, but simply to say that critical staff who provide critical assistance will continue to do so. >> are they international or local or both? >> all right. we are listening to the u.n. briefing which can be only fairly classified as a very cautious approach to things. there you see the u.n. spokesperson. he is not only answering with due diligence and repeating a lot of information that he's
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previously answered and discussed, but he's looking at notes, he is speaking word for word verbatim which only indicates the severity of what is happening right now. of course, this is all talking about what those u.n. weapons inspectors may or may not have found, but it is a pretty safe assumption that they will confirm that which the world seems to know, which is that bashar al assad has used chemical weapons against his own people. we have seen the videos. we have heard the cries of pain from those people who have been afflicted by this, and that will probably just confirm all that we already know. i want to bring in congressman elliott engel right now, democrat from new york. i want to ask you about the frustration that you may feel while you're listening to this briefing. we all understand and respect what the united nations does, and the spokesman was very clear on the mandate which was to just make sure this has happened, but not to take it a step further and find out from where these chemical weapons were launched,
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who is responsible for doing so. do you wish the united nations would have made that part of their mandate? >> i do. i think it's a little bit of a farce. does anyone at this late date doubt that chemical weapons were used. we saw the kids foaming at the mouth and dying yesterday, there were horrific pictures of people with their skin being burned off. i mean, i don't know what the u.n. is doing, quite frankly. they are going to obviously say that yes, these weapons were used. that's no great surprise. the fact is that we believe, and i have seen evidence that leads me to believe that it was assad and the syrian regime who are using this gas on their own people to murder men, women and children. they look at their arsenal of gas as another tool in their kit that they can use to try to drive out the rebels in the damascus suburbs and it's just
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clear, anyone with any kind of logic would understand that it's not the rebels that are doing this. it's assad. as i have mentioned before, if assad indeed did not do that, he would have welcomed the international inspectors in immediately to try to prove his case. the fact that syria kept these international inspectors out of their country for four or five days before they allowed them to come in, to me it's proof positive with all the other evidence we have that it was assad murdering his own people with poison gas. >> i know that you are going to be leaving this conversation in just a few minutes to go and be part of a classified phone call briefing with the white house. what do you expect to hear? >> well, i think that the president is obviously making his decision or has made his decision and i think that they are going to tell us what the president is going to do or is about to do. the president and the white house have kept us, members of congress have kept us informed
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with conversations from the very, very beginning, and tomorrow, there is a classified briefing at the capitol in washington to tell us some more information. so i'm very comfortable with the fact that the administration has been having robust discussions with members of congress and the senate, and i look forward to having more of those. >> with regard to that meeting that is scheduled for tomorrow on capitol hill that you're mentioning, is there a chance that that meeting could come after the fact in terms of military strikes having already happened? >> well, i don't really know. i suppose theoretically yes. i really don't know. all signs seem to be pointing that the president will have a limited strike and that it will be limited in many ways. i think if you take it a step further and look at it logically, i think it's imminent so it could happen soon. >> i have spoken on this program today with two fellow house democrats, gregory meeks from
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new york, john geramendi from california, both of whom echoed the sentiments, which are the president needs to further consult congress and get congress's approval prior to launching any sort launching any sort of strategical attack. how do you feel about that if the president goes forward without that congressional approval? >> i have great respect for both colleagues. they're both good friends of mine. i respectfully disagree with them. i think the war powers act gives the president the ability to launch whatever he needs to do and has 60 days to come to congress. this has happened many times before. back when ronald reagan went into grenada and bill clinton to kosovo. i think the president needs to do what he needs to do. if these actions were to last
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more than 60 days then i think it would be imperative to come to congress. i don't think this will be anywhere near 60 days. i'm comfortable with the president acting on his own. >> are you of the mind set that this is an imminent danger, an imminent threat, if not just to the syrian people but to the united states or allies. do you believe there's any reason to wait a for more days? >> different people can disagree and come up with different conclusions. i think waiting does helps assad. i think assad can move some of his assets around and try to protect some of the things he might not be able to protect. i don't want to send him a message about when we're going to strike. i think we need to do it. if the president decides is right to get the maximum benefit
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so people like assad understand it's a war crime. >> do you believe these surgical strikes will convince assad that he is doing something that's a war crime or is he of the mind set that logic may not prevail and it's fine for him to go ahead and do what he wants? in other words, what we're trying to accomplish, will we do that with these strikes? >> it's hard to say that. there are no good options left in syria. only bad options. i think the worst option is doing nothing. the president has drawn a line in the sand. he said if assad uses chemical weapon weapons that changes the equation. i think a lot of people, particularly the republicans are
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the very same ones who criticized him for drawing the line and not acting. now he's acting and they criticizing the way he's acting. i'm confident he'll do the right thing. will it deter assad? who knows. this kind of behavior is not acceptable to the united states of america. >> how much do you think whatever we do militarily speaking is as much for bashar al-assad's benefit in terms of an understanding or anybody else who might consider chemical weapons? >> i think it's anything else. i think it's important to draw the line and say this is not tolerable. i think we had reports about iran. the time when the president said iran we'll not allow them to have a nuclear weapon, i think they're watching very carefully what our reaction is now in
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syria. ho how we're reacting. i think they will come to the conclusion that we're a paper tiger and we say they can have a nuclear weapon, we don't really mean it. i think we have to mean what we say. the tide has turned in the civil war in syria because iran has unleashed hezbollah which is a terrorist organization into syria to fight on the side of assad. assad has become iran's proxy in his own country. i think the president has to move forcefully and follow up what he said so it's not just rhetoric to show the united states means business. no one wants boots on the ground. we're not going to have that. it's not going to turn into a slippery slope. it's a much different situation in iraq. i think the president is right in doing what he's doing. i believe that the decisions will be the correct ones.
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>> i know you have call with the white house. i'll let you go, sir. thank you for your analysis. >> appreciate that. >> i want to recap the top news of this hour. the president will be speaking in about 15 minutes from the rose garden. we'll have that statement for you live. we were giving you part of a united nations briefing to journalists there on the result of the chemical weapons inspectors there that had gone into syria to see to determine if chemical weapons had been used. they have left syria earlier than expected. they're now in lebanon where they are takie ining the proof leaving it at laboratories to be analy analyzed. we have evidence of use of chemical weapons from all sorts of videos, people we have seen suffering brutally as a result of the use of chemical weapons on them in syria. we'll take a short break.
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we'll be right back and take you to the president and his statement in the rose garden in about 20 minutes. come on back. ♪
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your door to more. ♪ we're approaching the top of the hour. we have several fast moving and key developments involving syria. first up, the president is scheduled to deliver a statement on syria in about 15 minutes. we'll bring that to you live from the white house rose garden. the president is briefing senators of both parties on syria and all members of the house have been invited to an in-person classified briefing tomorrow. here is what i was told a short time ago. >> the president does have the power if there's an imminent threat. there's nothing imminent here. this is a punishment action. this could wait a few days. >> scores of syrians continue to
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flee into border lebanon. some residents fear a possible u.s. strike could be imminent. > we're waiting to hear from the president in a quarter hour or so. let's go to kristen welker. what do you expect to hear? >> reporter: we expect to hear president obama update the american people on where he is in his decision making process about how to proceed in syria. i don't expect for him to map out his military plan for operations. having said that, president obama, secretary of state generjohn kerry were unequivocal and used strong language to say something needed to be done. the president said he planned to take some limited action in syria. we know the pentagon has plan in place. they're ready to act when and if president obama says go. we know there are five navy
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destroyers in the mediterranean. they could potentially fire cruise missiles if that is part of the plan. the president has made it clear this will be a limited operation. that means no boots on the ground. that's what we expect from president obama. alex, i want to set the scene outside the white house for a few minutes to give you a sense of the feeling here. there are protesters, dozens of them saying that they don't want military intervention in syria and that sort of squares with the latest nbc news wall street journal poll that found 50% of americans are opposed to military intervention. if you asked them about a limited strike, that number flips. we have 50% of people saying they could get behind and support some kind of limited military strike. of course, part of this is the spillover from iraq. this is a war weary nation and of course president obama and this administration has been keenly aware of that as they have tried to figure out how to
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move forward in syria. the administration has been hesitant to get engaged in syria because of the what happened in iraq. i think that's part of why you're seeing these briefings with members of congress and the american people because the president doesn't want this to be another iraq. that's what he has said. >> is there any indication the president will have q and a because there's a big difference between making a statement and offer a news conference? i'm sure you all are there prepared for questions if he takes them. >> reporter: that is a very important question. this is not shaping up to be a news conference. there won't be the entire press corps there. there will be a limited contention of the press which means president obama will make a statement. will he get some shouted questions from the reporters there? yes. will he answer them? that remains to be seen. this is not a full fledged press
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conference. this is statement president obama is going to make. that occurs just moments from now. we'll carry it live. alex. >> thank you very much. i appreciate that. >> reporter: absolutely. as the u.s. waits, potential action for syria are bracing for the fall out just syria retaliate against them. what are you hearing? >> reporter: hi there, officials have been saying for many days they believe it's little likely that the syrians would retaliate against israel if the u.s. does strike syria. that being said they're not taking any chances. the government has called on a thousands reservists to do primarily up in the north where that border with syria is. they have also erected these dome facilities.
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these are these anti-missile batteries throughout the country. they're all over the country because they're preparing themselves just in case. they don't know if a possibly strike can come from syria or hezbollah or iran. they don't know whose going to attack them. they know they have a lot of enemie enemies. israelis have been lining up in distribution centers. lining up for gas masks in case there's an unconventional attack. they want to protect their families. not all the israelis have been able to receive them. some people are worried. that being said, the government says the possibility of being struck in israel is a very low possibility. the prime minister netanyahu did address the public by saying if we identify any attempt to attack us we'll respond and respond forcefully. friday and saturday is the weekend here in israel because
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of the sabbath. israeli soldiers were not to take their home leave for the weekend. they've been asked to stay on guard and be prepared just in case. alex. >> okay. thank you for that. we're getting new reaction from one of syria's closest allies. russian president is responding to these comments by john kerry. >> because of the guaranteed russian obstructionism and action through the u.n. security council, u.n. cannot galvanize the world to act as it should. i'm. >> i'm curious if president putin has offered any response to secretary kerry. >> reporter: not a response but a blistering response to u.s. proposals to launch this attack on syria. frankly, russia and the u.s. rarely see eye to eye these
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days. president putin saying on this that he sees the president's justification for these proposed attacks as utter nonsense. he questions whether or not president assad in syria was responsible for this chemical attack. he asks why the assad regime would launch such a chemical attack when if you're like there on the front foot during the civil war and believes me kind of attack would flout international law. president putin making clear in robust terms, the most robust terms we've heard that they do not agree with any u.s. action. perhaps it's not surprising, they have been supporting the syrian regime and much of the fuel for the tanks for the regime in syria is provided by russia so if russia cut off support it would make a big difference. the perspective here in russia
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it is different. around the west and particularly in states people look on and say how can russia support a regime accused of killing hundreds of children and here they say how can the u.s. support rebels affiliated with al qaeda. >> i want to be clear. the people of russia, are you talking about the russian government in terms of where they think the chemical attacks have come from. do the people also side with the russian government. does everyone there believe it's the syrian rebels that have launched chemical attacks and their sympathies go to the syrian government? >> reporter: clearly not everyone. i've been speaking to russian experts who say that putin's argument is flawed. if you want to use chemical weapons, one way to use them is to like soften your opposition and attack some more.
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having said that president putin does have widespread support in russia because of these kinds of statements where as they say it here, he stands up to the united states and they make the same kinds of arguments that you heard in other parts of the world. for example, if we were told iraq had weapons of mas of s of destruction and that didn't turn out to be the case. he said okay, i've put it out there. show us the evidence. you say you're not prepared to do that because you don't want to compromise your intelligence sources. he says that can't be right. if you think you have evidence, you should put it out there to discuss it and perhaps even at the g-20 which is only a week away and there can be more of an international coalition. america and russia do not see eye to eye on many things and on this they don't. >> and particularly not now. thank you very much. for more now i'm joined by
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former u.s. ambassador to iraq christopher hill and special envoy for kosoco and p.j. crowley. ambassador hill, we had former defense secretary leon panetta. let's take a listen to him. >> president of the united states is commander in chief has the sponlts to protect our vital national interest. there's no question it's extremely important to our national security. >> how much do you agree with that ambassador hill? is this an issue of credibility and does that translate to being a matter of national security. >> i think there is an issue of credibili credibility. i would rather put the issue on the fact we have a regime that's
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used h ed chemical weapons. we know they have killed some 1400 people including some 400 children. i think it behooves this government of ours to really take off after this regime with a very strong effort. that said it's very clear that there are many people that do not support military engagement. for those that think we should drop bombs every time there's a problem we need more diplomacy and for the united states to take leadership and work with other countries. what is sorely looking in syria is any kind of international effort working together to have d diplomacy and see what can be done. >> p.j., we're trying to get an
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international coalition to purs pursue diplomacy. you have a lot of countries saying we applaud the ideology, how much does that complicate things? >> i think there's a question about what military action can acome politicikocome accomplish. the u.s. credibility is at a low ebb. despite the obama administration spending a great deal time trying to reset over the past four years. chris has hinted at a political
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military success and you have a military power attached to a process. that's where the russian aspect will be critical. putin will try to make obama pay a price for moving beyond the united nations process which russia has controlled for the past two years. the question is what will russia's reaction be and can this military effort get reconnect and unlock a political process that's been stalled for several months. >> if we look at kosovo as an example, it was the people of kosovo that rose up and they took matters into their hands? >> there was a rebel movement in kosovo. it actually was the excesses pushing out refugees that
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created the political imp tis. >> if that's the case, how much would you think the people of syria have an ability to act as those in kosovo did and to try to get bashar al-assad out of office? when you're talking about somebody who is willing to use chemical weapons on his own people, do they have chance at even doing that? >> first of all, if people of syria are completely all over the map. it's one of the most fractitious countries in the world. the u.s. needs to work with others. i think it's a very tall order. we have to do much more
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diplomatically and come up with a definition of what can go forward. it's not just assad we're dealing with. there are syrian christians who are fighting against the rebels. why are they fighting against the rebels because they have no idea what they're life will be like under a sunni led syria if that's what the rebels are intending. there's a lot of problems. there has to be a much better way to identify what syria's going to be. is it going to be a state within its on borders. there's got to be a much bigger, better effort at identifying the political solutions. i think the united states really needs to take the lead in that working with the european, russians, the arab league and others. >> as chris knows, the difference between 1999 and 2013, one, you had a united europe that was prepared to be that forum and that catalyst to
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solve kosovo, you have a fractured arab league, a fractured region competing conflicts within syria. 1999-2000 was the height of united states power and the ability to lead a humanitarian intervention. >> i'm going to bring you to the conversation. white house reporter for the washington post who joins us from our d.c. bureau. david, can you speak to why the president is doing this now? a timing question to you. >> reporter: i think as you have said, repeatedly, the white house is about to have its deputies brief members of congress. i think once that happens they may have more information than they did yesterday. if it's a classified briefing, they will go deeper. i think the president wants to talk to the nation first.
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he's spoken to david cameron and hollande. the french will now be supportive. i think the president is still trying to gain public confidence. >> how much do you think the president when he takes to this podium is speaking to the world and not just the american people? >> reporter: absolutely both. you saw president putin, he's now trying to cast doubt. he said it's a joke. there's no way that the assad regime would do this. they already had the upper hand. why would they do this? the president wants to put his cards on the table. he did address this yesterday in the white house when he was meeting with presidents from the baltic states, a pre-planned meeting. he confirmed what kerry said. the white house wants the president to get out there. they've seen the headlines. congress is on recess. the briefing they had yesterday, a lot of congressmen were not
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able to get in their home district to secure phone lines. you're seeing tomorrow an in-house briefing, an in-person briefing for those that want to come back to washington. the white house will say we're talking with you. he melay lay out a timetable. >> ambassador, what do you think happens now? does it all depend on what the president says and do you think we militarily could be doing something as soon as the president speaks or shortly thereafter? >> i think it depends on how the united nations inspectors report, which is after all, an umbrella organization of the united nations. what its findings are to confirm under the flag of the united nations there was a chemical
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weapons attack. secondly, there are two types of reports that are circulating at different stages around washington and congress. you have an unclassified briefing that is circulated to congress detailing as best as can be revealed by the -- assad and his commanders were directly responsible for ordering this chemical weapons attack. then there's a classify report that's circulated to the leadership of congress which is being briefed to these members. the real problem is that between the leadership getting that classified briefing and the rank and file members who are signing petitions wanting to passage of war powers resolution, the so called media frenzy over whether the president has congressional support is a gap that i think the president is trying to fill right now.
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>> p.j., do you think this president can do something effectively, diplomatically speaking when you look at all the players here, those that are with us, those that will support us in name but perhaps not militarily. is there something effective that we could do to ward off any military action or is this a fore gone conclusion? >> i don't see how the united states fails to act militarily in the narrow manner its outlined. the question is then can you unlock a political process through geneva that been poised, positioned there for months but has been frozen by a combination of factors including russia as well as the inability to orchestrate what opposition could occur and whether assad has to step down prior to that.
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it's been very, very difficult. the question is can whatever limited military action the united states embarks upon unlock that process. that's the home run. i don't know that will be immediately feasible. >> ambassador hill, without having the united nations come back and say as a result of their weapons inspectors being in syria from where these weapons were launched and who is responsible for doing so, what is the point of that report and do you wish that they had perhaps broadened their mandate to those inspectors to find out that information? >> it's worth recalling the inspectors were in syria nor the first place with regards to a previous incident, not this incident. second it's important to understand what the u.n. inspectors are verifying if there was a chemical attack without verifying or adjudica
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adjudicating who made the attack. i think secretary kerry laid out pretty effectively that it came out from syrian government forces. i think those ducks will be in order. i think there will be an attack on syria probably pretty soon and then what. i think that's where we need to hear from our leadership about how we're going forward. saying that assad must go. i would love for assad to go but just saying he must go is not going to solve this. i think we need to kind of figure out what are the political arrangements for that country in the future. the russians would be interested in that. the arabs who are opposed to assad would be interested in that process and maybe iran would be interested. i think there needs to be way forward. this issue is not going away and chemical, the use of chemical
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weapons is a symptom of how brutal this civil war is and will continue to be. >> general, with regard to these tactics that are allegedly going to be used, if they are used, surgical tactical strikes by these missiles. how effective do you expect them to be? when they say surgical strikes, to what extent do you worry about casualties. >> we're about to have a strike. it will be limited in duration and probably only entail tamahawks. it's incredibly accurate. the question is will it change substantially on the ground or deter assad from further use of chemicals or an attack on the
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u.s. navy ships out in the mediterranean. low pressure it widen the war where the iranian guards. we're on the up escalator now. we won't be able to get off. they need to think about what next. >> what do these look like? are these three missiles, are they 50? how long do you expect them to last. it could go on for as long as three days. how does that break down? how does the decision get made as to how long this continues? >> to be honest, i don't think it's the right question. i think lit be a limited strike from the sea using missiles. a couple hundred, let's say. this is a fight till the death between the minority that rules the country, hezbollah.
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there will be no reconciliation. i'm dubious at a diplomatic solution will be found to this. one side will win and the other side will suffer. this strike is very unlikely tom achieve any outcome except probably escalate the situation. i'm of the view if you're going to use military force write down your political objective and define military measures that will get you there. i don't think we wrote down our political objective and these measures will not achieve any lasting solution. >> on the heels of that i want to bring in jared burnstein. the public's appetite for what we are about to embark upon in all likelihood, tall about that or the lack thereof.
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>> i think it's somewhat more nuance than what some of the public has suggested. when you ask people what do you think about a short surgical strike there's a bit more willingness to go there. what i think hasn't occurred is the kind of discussion you've been having with the ambassador where the american public even really understands what's the goal here. other than shooting a bunch of bombs at some targeted locations, most people, i think when they think about this want to know what's that supposed to accomplish? >> okay. it's been said that in all lickly hood whatever we do from a military perspective will not deter president assad from doing what he wants to do. >> there's been two things said.
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one is that and the other thing that's been said is that this will be a very limited action. the president himself has said as much. well, okay. politicians have said that in the past. i trust the president on that. if you're listening to our conversation which is certainly at a higher level but one that lots of other people are having to do. what's supposed to happen? how is this going to help us? and it's guaranteed a simple action, it's more confusing. what do you accomplish when you say i'm going to keep this small and i don't think it's going to really be a regime changer? >> let's go to nbc's kristen welker. she's at the white house. the update we're looking at about 11.5 minutes late with the president. do we know if he's at the white house? >> reporter: he's at the white house. we know he was just spotted talking on the phone in the oval office. vice president biden spotted in
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the oval office. it's not clear when the president is going to come out. in terms of what we expect him to say, we expect him to update the american public on his decision making process about how to proceed in syria. i don't anticipate he will map out a military operation for the american people. this is something that president obama has used very strong language about. yesterday making it very clear he believes there does need to be some type of limited military strike which you have been discussing. just to set the scene at the white house, i can tell you that reporters who are in the oval office say they can hear protesters who are standing outside of the white house. dozens of them gather today. they've been gathered there really for the past week and they're message to the president is that they don't want him to intervene in syria. we just conducted an msnbc news poll that shows that 50% of
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americans are posed to intervention. if you ask them about a limited strike, americans say 50% of them would support that but really very tepid support for this. this is a country that's war weary in the wake of iraq and as we draw down the war in afghanistan, this white house has been keenly ware of this. i've been discussing the issue of syria for months. that's something that weighs on their minds quite heavily. i expect it has in these past days as he's tried to determine how to proceed in syria. another problem for the white house, the president hasn't been able to gather a broad international coalition. i was told by one senior administration official he would be calling leaders from other countries today. >> we're told they're not far away. the president supposed to go to the g-20 after this. how difficult is this going to be? how much do you think this will cast pall over all the meetings
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there? >> reporter: i think it will be difficult. this will come up in some of those sideline discussions that we'll have with other world leaders. this is a major sticking point between the united states and russia. president putin has been clear that he does not think that the united states should intervene in syria. he's urged the president to wait for the u.n. inspectors to come forward with their results. the white house's result is the u.n. inspectors are charged with determining whether or not there was a chemical weapons attack not who is responsible for the chemical weapons attack. that's why you saw the president, secretary kerry come out yesterday and build their case to the american people. that's why they are briefing members of congress today. they're argument is their intelligence shows with a high level of confidence this was the work of bashar al-assad. they believe that because of u.s. satellite images which captured the rockets launched
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from strongholds and because of intelligence communications that were intercepted that revealed the planning of that attack that took place last week. that is the white house's art but certainly this is going to be a pall over the g-20 summit. i would be surprised if we saw any military strikes while president obama is traveling abroad but this will be a topic of conversation. >> he's hoping whatever he would do would be done by that point to which i want to bring in general general mccaffery. what is the possibility it could bo from one to three days to five? at one point is a sense of mission accomplished and chiving what t achieving what the goals are completed?
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>> the good news is secretary kerry is a very good diplomat and public policy leader. he made the case adequately that it was a strike by the assad forces. that really worried me had it not turned out to be a rebel deception operation six months from now. i think the moral case has been made and the argument that assad did it has been made. the question is what's the likelihood of this being bang, bang for 24 hours and then it's over and no further action required. remote. assad's going to do something. the iranians are going to do something. hezbollah will do something. it will be a tattacks on embass or attack at the u.s. navy at sea. although attacks on the u.s. navy at sea is a very idea to try. he's in for intense days of unknown reactions. >> p.j., you want to comment?
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>> that argues for beginning whatever is going to be done sooner. i think the president's got to political support he's going to get. go through the one to three days of military strikes. see what the reaction is and then use the g-20 as a pivot point either to begin a conversation about further military action although i'm not sure that's going to be necessary or what politically happens in light of not only what the united states has done but what the regional reaction is. i think that argues for beginning the operation sooner and then using next week to see how you can gain international support to justify what's happened but to then draw up that path forward in light of what the americans have done. >> ambassador hill having been an ambassador to iraq can you gauge what the response will be
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and perhaps russia looking at if this is a one to three day -- pardon me, a three day event. what do you expect the reaction to be from iran and russia? >> well, first of all, i think the reaction from assad will be defiant and he'll probably step up the shelling of rebel held areas. probably not with chemical weapons. with respect to iran and russia, both of whom have supported assad, i don't anticipate any major, any kind of military reaction. i think we'll get more of the same from president putin and we'll get more denunciations. iran has a new government. they are trying to calm things
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down especially vis-a-vis the international community. >> ambassador, what do you see as being a worst case scenario for america going in? >> i think the worst case scenario is that what chris and p.j. and barry have eluded to and discussed. how many cruise missiles does it take to convince assad not to use his chemical weapons again? this tragic brutal civil war is going on no matter what. not that it's going to stop assad from the atrocities that he and shall we say other more rebels, islamist al qaeda leaders have committed. these attacks by this effort by
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the administration does not deter assad from using chemical weapons then the president has an extraordinarily difficult decision to make. does he go back again. does he use more lethal force? what is the credibility factor of the united states if we're looked upon as a paper tiger that has these naval assets and we're unable to stop assad from killing all these people? >> what does the united states do if we what believe we may be undertaking is not successful. do we go in with a stronger strike? >> well, the at least interesting question is the military aspects of. the military navy and air force
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has the power to destroy the assad regime within 60 days. it would require a major effort of repeated strikes to take out aviation, artillery, rockets, tank, et cetera. having said that then we live with the outcome. the outcome is an ongoing religious civil war massacring the christians, the curds, et cetera. involving the iranian revolutionary wards and shittes. one of the thoughts is where is the u.s. congress. this is shameful that they do not want to be on the record as voting for or against an authorized use of military force. the whole notion they couldn't
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be brought back. the farthest person is in hawaii and that's 14 hours to get back. they are missing in action and this is a constitutional issue. >> let's pose that to the washington post white house reporter. to that effect, i should also say for your consideration representative john garamendi found out from this show that the white house was calling for a meeting tomorrow on capitol hill in-person, a briefing that would be offered from all members of congress. to what extent does that complicate things? we have a holiday weekend. there are those that are not aware, officially, that this is going to happen. talk about that. >> that's a problem. i think things are moving very quickly this morning. this is what the congress is saying. why are you rushing so much? as i said earlier, a lot of
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congress folks were given the opportunity to get on a secured phone line and have a more classified briefing by phone from their legislative districts, but a lot of them, including potentially the majority leader were out raising money and doing other things. it was difficult for them to get back. they turned that down and happen unclassified briefings on open phone lines. because of this pressure the white house is now offering a bit more briefing in-depth. we'll see how many people tomorrow for all of the house members. whether they would come back for a vote, that's up to the speaker to call the congress back into session and harry reid in the senate. i think that's clearly not on the agenda for the obama administration. it's a moot point. you'll hear congress speak out and even after this briefing you're probably going to have continued voices out there saying we're moving too quickly and you'll have a lot of them. >> this is how congress works,
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right in terms of its level of dysfunction? do you believe congress will get its act together and all come and be represented tomorrow whether in person or on phone or representatives from their offices? is this the kind of thing that's compelling enough for congress to get on board and take to this and take a stand. >> i don't think that they're going to -- i don't think there's going to be a vote at all. there's 535 of them. they're scattered about. i agree regarding what should be a level of congressional functionality right now. as your question kind of suggested, it doesn't really exist. there's also this. i think we should be fair to many members of congress who have said precisely what the general said and agree with him which is they very much want to be consulted and there's been some bipartisan discussion to that effect. there's been various letters signed by over 100 members of
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the house that said they'd like to be consulted. i don't think there's going to be a vote. i think the president ploobelie he doesn't have to time right now to engage in that kind of negotiation. not saying i agree with that but i think that's the dynamics at play. >> kristen you reported the president was on the phone. do we know with whom he was speaking or if he's reached out as you heard he had to leave to take a phone call. >> reporter: we don't flow yet we are waiting to get a read out from members of congress once the briefings are concluded. we don't know who president obama was speaking to. those reporters in the rose garden awaiting president obama's remarks did see him talking on the phone. i can tell you in one of my conversations today with a
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senior administration official i was told the president will be reaching out today to other foreign leaders as he tries to garner more and more international support for this. yesterday he was on the phone with the british prime minister, the president of france. it appears france is really the united states ally going into this. the british parliament voted no to any type of military intervention. that in part of a reaction to what happened in iraq. we're also trying to get a sense of why president obama is running late. he was supposed to come out at 1:15. this is not abnormal for him to come out later. that's often because conversations run a little bit long. when he does come, i expect him to update the american public about how to proceed inside syria just to give people a little bit of context. this is a conflict that's been going on for two years.
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more than 100,000 people have been killed according to the u.n. you have two million people in refugee camps. a million of those children. this is a crisis that the white house has been monitoring for quite some time now and very reluctant to engage in on any level. president obama did say the use of chemical weapons would be a red line. that's why we're seeing this response today, this strong response that we're seeing from this administration. back in june, i'll take you back to june, the white house announced they would begin to arm the rebels after a smaller chemical weapons attack by the assad regime. this is a much larger attack that occurred on august 21st. 1400 people were killed. 400 were children. th that's why the president determined he will take some sort of action. >> another question is to whether or not we'll get the questions answered when the
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president takes to the podium. we're not sure we are but we're going to wait and take the president as soon as he takes that. ambassador hill, how important is international support. we have france standing shoulder to shoulder and that's about it in terms of any sort of practical application there. when we think back to iraq, we had a vast coalition there. we know how that turned out. how important is this? >> i think first of all, you're not going to see other countries join in the mission. i think losing britain in that regard was a big loss and a bit of a surprise. i think probably the state department has been very busy trying to make sure that many countries issue positive statements about this action. i suspect you'll see more verbal support than is suggested now. i think there's been real effort to go out to capitals to get
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that verbal support. the problem is we don't have any partners in a coalition of the willing. >> i understand you have something to add to that, sir. >> the president may be trying to get more political support. what about the egyptians, the jordanians and the saudis and the turks. all of whom are sunni-muslim country. will they be there? the answer is the jordanians and egyptians have denounced the operation. the saudis are mute and the turks will not take an active part. this is a huge problem. desert storm, bush '41 had a syrian corps and saudis as part of the military coalition. >> how things have changed. >> i want to add to this.
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i've been following the arab press over the last few days and let me just add to what you just said. unfortunately, in a disappointing way, of all countries in the region the saudis and the cataris who have been most involved are not prepared to overtly support through the arab league a statement, much less any overt military support for the united states. they have run for cover, so to speak on this. frankly, the most disappointing giving the state of our relationship, the egyptians are the most opposed of all the sunnis countries. the one country we have the closest military ties with and all these about relations have pour into this syrian blood bath to complicate our relations further.
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>> i want to get to p.j. the challenge is for the state department to try to diplomatically solve or further along this crisis. >> it's not going to be in the sense a legal action. what you're looking for is to have political legitamacy for what happened. >> is that verified by getting countries to put out statements. >> as many as you can have to say this was the right thing to do will be useful. i think the region is holding its breath because syria is connected to everybody else. if there are no ripple effects they'll say great and take a big sigh of relief. if there are ripple effects, there's consequences too. we keep talking about surgical. the cruise missiles are wonderful but multiple weapons will misguide. they will hit something that are
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not intended or bashar will try to exploit pictures on the ground to talk about terrorisms in this context of what the united states has done. there's going to be a battle of narratives here. you'll need to have voices. turkey will be vital. other countries that will suffer the impact of whatever else happens, they've got to be on board. >> i want to go to the pentagon by saying we've got the two minute warning about 45 seconds ago. you're listening to these diplomats talking about this. how much does the pentagon and state department work in concert during a time like this? >> they always work in concert. some of the concerns we heard expressed here about what would be the result of a limited mission as described by the president himself who said we're not going after regime targets. we don't intend to try to topple
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the regime and the strikes are going to be limited and tailored. for a military person that ties your hands behind your back immediately and many here in the building point to previous limited assaults against targets which really didn't durn oturn that well and one would argue they weren't that successful. for the first time we did hear yesterday from a senior official who is always a little skeptical of these air strikes and said he was about 80-85% confident earlier in the week they would happen. yesterday, he told me it was liking more like 30 to 35%. there's growing skepticism here in the building, and if you look at the testimony and the record of the joint chiefs chairman general martin dempsey he's always been skeptical of getting involved militarily on any large or even medium scale in syria. look, the military will salute
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smartly and carry out the orders but there is a lot of skepticism in this building about what the outcome would be from those attacks. >> we're getting word from the associated press, according to sources, that the president is considering seeking congressional authorization for action against syria. any of my guests, can the president get that by these phone conference calls? does he have to take a specific vote? how quickly, p.j., or anyone else? >> what the president is looking for is an expression of support. a statement by the leaders can accomplish there. i would be astonished if there was an actual vote because delaying this in time to get a vote, you're now talking about day, gives assad more time to move stuff around and undermine what will be accomplished if and when the strike occurs.
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>> interestingly, the president we're told a couple minutes more than that ago it was a two-minute warning, we'll just continue our conversation until he takes that podium. how frustrating is it for you, sir, as a military man to know that we are talking about things that some might consider ought to be kept secret? we are talking about these tactical strikes exactly we're laying out what our plans are, and does that at all defuse the ability for something to be successful? do you wish we weren't going over all of this, just from a military perspective? >> well, i think we are going to operate from now on in an environment -- >> yeah, i am sorry, general. >> it has been appalling watching the white house directly put out the limitations of this attack. >> thank you, and i ask you to hold that thought. here is the president. >> the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in syria in the worst
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weapons attack in the 21st century. yesterday the u.s. presented a powerful case that the syrian government was responsible for the attack on its own people, and the intelligence shows the assad regime preparing to use the chemical forces, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place, and all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see. hospitals overflowing with victims, terrible images of the dead, and all told well over 1,000 people were murdered. several hundred of them were children. young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government. this attack is an assault on human dignity. it also presents a series danger to our national security.
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it risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and it endangers are friends and partners along the syria borders, including, israel, and turkey and iraq. it could lead to the escalation of using chemical weapons, and in a world with many dangers this mennice must be confronted. after careful deliberation i have decided that the united states should take military action against syrian regime targets. this would not be an open-ended intervention and we would not put boots on the ground, and instead our action will be designed to be limited in duration and scope. but i am confident we can hold the assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons and detour this kind of behavior and degrade their capacity to
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carry it out. our military has assets in the region and the chairman of the joint chiefs has informed me we are prepared to strike whenever we choose, and moreover the chairman has said this is not time sensitive, and it will be effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now. and i am prepared to give that order. but having made my decision as commander in chief based on what i am convinced is our national security interests, i am also mindful i am the president of the world's oldest constitutional democracy, and i have long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. and that's why i have made a second decision, and i will seek authorization for the use of force from the american peoples'
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representatives in congress. for the last several days, we have heard from members of congress who want their voices to be heard. i absolutely agree. so this morning i spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they have agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as congress comes back into session. in the coming days, my administration stands ready to provide every member with the information they need to understand what happened in syria, and why it has such profound implications for america's national security. and all of us should be accountable as we move forward and that can only be accomplished with a vote. i am confident in the case our government has made without waiting for u.n. inspectors. i am comfortable going forward without the approval of a united nations's security kourpbl that so far has been completely
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paralyzed and unwilling to hold assad accountable. many people have advised against taking this decision to congress, and they are impacted by what we saw happen in the united kingdom this week when the parliament in our closest ally to support a resolution. yet while i believe i have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, i know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective. we should have this debate. because the issues are too big for business as usual. and this morning john boehner and harry reid and nancy pelosi and mitch mcconnell agreed. i respect the views of those who call for caution, and
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particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that i was elected in part to end. but if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing. here is my question for every member of congress and every member of the global community. what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? what is the purpose of the international system that we have built in a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98% of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the congress of the united states is not enforced? make no mistake. this has implications beyond chemical warfare. if we won't enforce accountability in the face of
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this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stands up to others who flop international rules, and to governments who choose to build nuclear arms and to terrorists that spread biological weapons, and armies that carry out genocide. we cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow-through on the things we say, the accords we sign and the values that define us. so just as i will take this case to congress, i will also deliver this message to the world while the u.n. investigation has sometime to report on its findings, will we insist an atrocity committed with chemical weapons cannot simply be investigated, it must be confronted. i don't expect every nation to agree with the decisions me weighed, and i ask those that care about the writ of the
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international community to stand publicly behind our actions. and let me say to the american people, i noel we are wary of war, and we ended a war in iraq and ending one in afghanistan, and we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in syria with our military, and in that part of the world there are ancient sectarian differences, and they have unleashed forces of change. we are not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of somebody else's war. but we are the united states of america. we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in
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damascus. out of the ashes of world war we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning and we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations. we aren't perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities. so in all members of congress, of both parties, i ask you to take this vote for our national security. i am looking forward to the debate. and in doing so i ask you, members of congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics at the moment, and ultimately this is not about who occupies this office at any given time, and it's about who we are as a kupbg tr country, and i believe the peoples' represents must be invested of what happens abroad, and i think it's time to show
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that we do what we say and we lead with the belief that right makes might, not the other way around. we all know there are no easy options, but i was not elected to avoid hard decisions and neither were the members of the house and the senate. i have told you what i believe that are security and values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons. and our democracy is stronger when the president and the peoples' representatives stand together. i am ready to act in the face of this outrage. today i am asking congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation. thanks very much. >> will you forego a strike if congress disapproves? >> good afternoon to you, i will pick up the coverage here. we are expecting the plead to give us the latest on the


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